Lord Sainsbury, British ‘Shopkeeper to his Core,’ Passes Away at Age 94

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Lord John Sainsbury of Preston Candover, a past chairman of the second largest supermarket chain in the United Kingdom, has died at the age of 94. From 1969-92 he served as chief executive officer of London-headquartered Sainsbury’s, which today claims 16% of the British retail food market, operates more than 600 supermarkets, over 800 convenience stores, and employs approximately 189,000 people.

Lauding a “remarkable life” in announcing the passing of Lord Sainsbury on January 14, Martin Scicluna, the chain’s current  chairman and chief executive, remarked: “During a 40-year career with the company, he led the business through a period of great change and had a major impact on retail in the UK in the 20th century.”

Lord Sainsbury, who  and sat in the House of Lords as a life peer and member of the Conservative Party, started working in his family’s business in 1950, initially taking on a role in the grocery department. He became a director of the company in 1958 and assumed the deputy chairmanship in 1967, a role taken over from his father. In 1969, he was appointed chairman and chief executive until his retirement in 1992.

“Under his stewardship we modernized our stores, developed our food ranges and floated Sainsbury’s on the London Stock Exchange in what was, at the time, the UK’s largest-ever initial public offering,” said Scicluna. “He was knighted by Her Majesty the Queen in 1980 for services to the food retailing industry, made a life peer in 1989 and in 1992 was appointed as one of only 24 Knights of the Garter.

“In recent years, he hosted a visit by Her Majesty the Queen (as seen in the photo above) to celebrate the 150th anniversary of our business. He will be greatly missed by the board and all his friends and colleagues at Sainsbury’s. We send our condolences to Lord Sainsbury’s wife Lady Sainsbury and the rest of the Sainsbury family.”

Simon Roberts, the company’s chief executive officer, added: “All of us at Sainsbury’s are deeply saddened by the news that Lord Sainsbury has passed away. On behalf of Sainsbury’s colleagues past and present, I extend our heartfelt condolences to Lady Sainsbury and the rest of Lord John’s family. Lord Sainsbury was a shopkeeper to his core and one of the great retailers of his time. He was ambitious for the company and led Sainsbury’s through an unprecedented period of growth; he was a truly inspirational man. While he will be missed by many, his huge contribution to Sainsbury’s and the values he cared about and believed in so much will remain alive at the heart of our business.”